As per Constitution of India, Article 20 states that, No person can be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once. However if a person has been let off after prosecution i.e he has been acquitted, without being punished, he can be prosecuted again.
Section 300 of Criminal Procedure Code, which provides protection against double jeopardy, which is also guaranteed by the t of India, lays down, that a person who has once been tried by a Court of competent jurisdiction for any offence, and convicted or acquitted of such offence shall not be liable, whilst such conviction or acquittal remains in force, to be tried again for the same offence, nor on the same facts for any other offence for which a different charge might have been made.
It is however, also provided that if a person is acquitted or convicted of any offence, he may be afterwards tried for any distinct offence for which a separate charge might have been made against him at the former trail. However, this can be done only with the consent of the State Government.
The observation of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on this point are pertinent-
“The Committee is of the opinion that where a person has been acquitted or convicted of any offence, and a separate charge could have been, but was not, made against him in the former trial, he should not be liable to be again prosecuted on the other charge as a matter of course, because this might lend itself to abuse. To provide a check against such abuse, the Committee has provided for the consent of the State Government before a new prosecution is launched on the basis of this provision”.
It is further provided that if a person convicted of any offence which is constituted by any act causing consequences, which together with such act constituted a different from the one of which he was convicted, he may be afterwards tried for such second mentioned offence, if the consequences had not happened or were not known to the Court to have happened, at the time when he was convicted (Section 300(3))
Moreover, a person who is acquitted or convicted of any offence constituted by any acts may, despite the acquittal or conviction, be subsequently charged with and tried for any other offence constituted by the same acts, if the Court by which he was tried first was not competent to try the offence with which he is charged subsequently.
Likewise, a person who has been discharged under Section 258 cannot be tried again for the same offence except with the consent of the Court by which he was discharged or of any other Superior Court. It is also expressly provided that the dismissal of a complaint, or the discharge of an accused does not amount to an acquittal, for the purpose of this section.
In order that the section may apply, the following three conditions must be satisfied –
- The person must have been actually tried by a competent court for the same offence of which he is charged in the second trial.
- The person must have been convicted or acquitted in the earlier trial.
- The conviction or acquittal must be in force, i.e., it must not have been set aside by a superior.
It is pertinent to note that the provisions of Section 300 on the question of previous acquittal are not the same as the principles underlying the English doctrine of autrefois acquit, inasmuch as the Code makes a clear distinction between discharge and acquittal.
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